Helical Orbits

In: Maps Science Video

26 Dec 2012

We’ve seen some takes on this before (here, here, and here), but this one seems the most accurate. Man, we’re small.

5 Responses to Helical Orbits


Steven Zalesch

December 27th, 2012 at 13:19

All inertial frames of reference are equally valid. We settled this over 100 years ago. When you speak of the Sun’s motion, you are selecting a reference frame that makes your mythology sound real.

I suspect that the sun’s motion relative to other stars is mostly within the plane of the galaxy, as are the planetary orbits. So, the picture is all wrong with respect to that reference frame.



December 27th, 2012 at 23:18

Isn’t the galaxy itself moving as well? So there’s (at least) one other direction of motion to be added.


Steve Roberts

December 31st, 2012 at 11:04

I’m with Steven and David. While the animator’s work is beautiful and interesting, the heliocentric model is still accurate from a (valid) heliocentric frame of reference. The animator believes he has chosen an objective frame of reference to generate the appearance of spiral motion, but we have not found such an objective frame yet.


Ben Davies

January 1st, 2013 at 11:39

Great graphic.

But I’m not sure how he got Jupiter orbiting outside of Saturn.

And actually the planets are in retrograde motion relative to the sun’s galactic orbit so they should have been shown spiraling the other way. And the ecliptic is at 60 degrees (or 120 degrees to be consistent) to the galactic plane so head on, the trails would appear to be ellipses rather than circles. Nevertheless, what fun.



January 11th, 2013 at 23:38

Gotta concur with all comments.
1. Beautiful rendition. Really.
2. Woefully wrong.
a] Not only is Jupiter outside Saturn in this rendition, but it’s outside ALL the other gas giants, including Uranus and Neptune.
b] Frame of reference is arbitrary and all are valid. The artist has chosen one that makes a very pretty show, but it is no more valid than any other.
c] The sun does NOT “…drag the planets through space…”. If the sun magically vanished, the planets would continue moving along that same axis together (even as they were flung outward radially.)

It is astonishing that such an effort would go into a beautiful rendering, yet so little effort would go into getting any of the science right.

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